Archeologists in northern Italy discovered two skeletons locked in a passionate embrace. To add to the romance of the story the skeletons were found outside of Mantua a town 25 miles south of Verona. Alas, the romance ends there. This is not the story of the Montague’s and the Capulet’s.
Had the skeletons been from the time of Shakespeare the story would have been almost unbearably romantic. Not that there isn’t the possibility that a story was written. Paper was first used about 5,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. So who knows? Maybe somewhere, a long time ago the story of these two young people was recorded to the delight of romantics everywhere and to the dismay of high school students trying to interpret the meaning of love from a play.
How do we know the pair that was discovered were young when they died? By their teeth, which were found intact and not worn down.
“As far as we know, it’s unique,” Elena Menotti, the archeologist who led the dig, told The Associated Press. “Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging.”
According to Menotti, the burial site was found during construction work for a factory building in the outskirts of Mantua. Found next to the couple were flint tools, including arrowheads and a knife. Experts will now study the artifacts and the skeletons to determine the burial site’s age and how old the two were when they died.
Although the Mantua pair strike a rare and touching pose, archaeologists have found prehistoric burials in which the dead hold hands or have other contact, said Luca Bondioli, an anthropologist at Rome’s National Prehistoric and Ethnographic Museum.
According to Bondioli, The find has “more of an emotional than a scientific value.” But it does highlight how the relationship people have with each other and with death has not changed much from the period in which humanity first settled in villages, learning to farm the land and tame animals.
“The Neolithic is a very formative period for our society,” he said. “It was when the roots of our religious sentiment were formed.”
“The two bodies, which cuddle closely while facing each other on their sides, were probably buried at the same time, an indication of a possible sudden and tragic death, Bondioli said.
“It’s rare for two young people to die at the same time, and that makes us want to know why and who they were, but it will be very difficult to find out.”
In an article from Reuters, Menotti was quoted as saying “I must say that when we discovered it, we all became very excited. I’ve been doing this job for 25 years. I’ve done digs at Pompeii, all the famous sites. But I’ve never been so moved because this is the discovery of something special.”
And because this is ultimately a scientific discovery, and not a story written from the heart, a laboratory will now try to determine the couple’s age at the time of death and how long they had been buried.